Polar Biology

, Volume 30, Issue 12, pp 1579–1592 | Cite as

Depth-related changes to density, diversity and structure of benthic megafaunal assemblages in the Fimbul ice shelf region, Weddell Sea, Antarctica

  • Daniel O. B. Jones
  • Brian J. Bett
  • Paul A. Tyler
Original Paper


The depth-related patterns in the benthic megafauna of the NE Weddell Sea shelf at the edge of the Fimbul Ice Shelf were investigated at seven sites using towed camera platform photographs. Megafaunal density decreased with depth from 77,939 ha−1 at 245 m to 8,895 ha−1 at 510 m. While diversity was variable, with H′ ranging between 1.34 and 2.28, there were no depth related patterns. Multivariate analyses revealed two distinct assemblages; a shallow assemblage with dense patches of suspension feeders in undisturbed areas and a deep assemblage where these were not present. Disturbance from icebergs explained many observed patterns in faunal distribution. In shallow waters probable effects of disturbance were observed as changes in successional stages; in deeper waters changes in habitat as a result of past disturbance explained faunal distributions. In deeper areas ice ploughing created a mosaic landscape of fine and coarse sediments. Total megafaunal density was highest in areas of coarse sediment (up to 2.9 higher than in finer sediment areas) but diversity was highest in intermediate areas (H′ = 2.35).


Polar Ecology Deep-sea Photography Towed camera platform Antarctic Megabenthos 



This work was undertaken as part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Autosub Under Ice thematic programme project Controls on marine benthic biodiversity and standing stock in ice covered environments. NER/T/S/2000/00994. D Jones was supported for the duration of this work by a NERC grant (NER/S/A/2002/10397). The authors wish to acknowledge all those aboard the Royal Research Ship James Clark Ross cruise JR97 for their help. We would also like to thank J. Gutt (Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research) for help and providing access to photographs for comparison with this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel O. B. Jones
    • 1
  • Brian J. Bett
    • 1
  • Paul A. Tyler
    • 1
  1. 1.DEEPSEAS GroupNational Oceanography CentreSouthamptonUK

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